What you see and hear isn’t always what it seems

Our prisons are other people’s eyes; our cages are their thoughts. – Ruby Wax, from her autobiography, How do you want me?

The world revolves around the events and the interactions that we all participate in. We create our own world inside of us; recreating and reinforcing our thoughts and perceptions, moment by moment, every day of our lives.

Our challenge to ourselves is that we are biologically and mentally stimulated by the negative as well as the positive. Unfortunately, we have a natural born tendency to think more negative thoughts than positive ones. In fact, it is a 9:1 ratio. Yes, we have nine negative thoughts for every positive one. When you consider that the average person will have upwards of 70,000 thoughts per day; that means you are whacking yourself with upwards of 63,000 negative thoughts and only 7,000 positive ones.  

We reinforce this from a cultural perspective. Think of the news you might have seen or heard or read today. How many articles were positive? Uplifting? That made you feel that the world was a great place to be? Advertising does the same, but in a more subtle manner. ‘You can change and become this’. ‘Better, faster, cheaper’ A consumption led idea of tomorrow that is going to be different and positive, rather than recognising for most of us, what we have now is sufficient and in many cases what we want.

It’s no wonder then that our internal dialogue is so negative and we can suffer from depression.

We all go through the rollercoaster of emotions – in relationships, in friendships, at work, or even when we play. If you are not careful you can end up in a negative spiral, where you feel completely out of control and not able to deal with any situation. That level of negativity can be terrible to experience and can be equally horrible to see someone else go through. Your instinctive reaction is to reach out to them. To try to help them. You may even offer words of support or guidance. Don’t.

It is a painful lesson to learn. Our perceptions of others are not the reality that they feel.

Words expressed by yourself to say one thing can so easily be picked up in a completely different manner by others. Your offer of support can actually be regarded negatively. You think you are being helpful when in fact you may be reinforcing negative thoughts in the other person. It is so hard to not step in. Harder still if you feel that you can help.

What advice can I give when you are faced with such a situation?

When I am faced with these situations, it takes a real effort on my part to try to stay positive and not to jump in with advice and offers of help. To remain calm. To remain focused on the other person and not let my own thoughts and perceptions take over. Sometimes a walk and some “self-talking” helps. Be careful though you don’t get noticed walking the streets talking to yourself. You could be considered one of the “special” people!

My mindfulness practice really comes into its own as well. The compassionate practice is one of my favorites and helps to centre yourself both in the present moment and allow you realise that the thoughts you are experiencing are only transient, not permanent. If nothing else, being able to feel calm. The practice uses the mantra of:

“May xx be safe and free from suffering”

“May xx be happy and healthy”

“May xx have ease of being”

The first time you internalise the words, the xx, is “May I…”. The second time you internalise the words, the “xx” is the name of the person who is suffering. Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

What do you do when you are faced with the situation? Suggestions always welcome.

I leave you with the following quote. With kind wishes to my brother…. As his most recent blog post prompted the title of mine.

“Stop judging long enough to understand that what you see and hear isn’t always what it seems.” – Julian Summerhayes


You can check out Julian’s post at: http://juliansummerhayes.com/the-unexamined-life/

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